I Was Ready to Buy the Apple Watch 5, Until Apple Unveiled It

Apple Watch Series 5 debut
(Image credit: Apple)

For years, I've thought about getting an Apple Watch. And during last week's Apple event, I went from optimistically hopeful to confident in a purchase to completely alienated in under 20 minutes. Here's why I'm not buying the Apple Watch Series 5 — and what I'm waiting for.

In introducing its latest smartwatch Apple led with the new version's strong suit: health and wellness aspirations that show how much you could save your life with this wearable, and how much it … encourages people to work out. One Apple Watch owner did the classic weight loss pose (showing how wide your old pants are, not a perp walk). Another said "It pushes me to keep going."

That's all well and good, but I don't really feel as if a prompt to workout and be better about my dietary habits are necessarily exclusive to a watch. Notifications on my phone push me to do a lot of things, but I don't open Apple News articles as much as the service prods me, nor do I attend all the concerts that Ticketmaster pushes me to attend.

What I liked about the Apple Watch Series 5 introduction

The revelation that the Apple Watch Series 5  includes an "always on" screen made me exclaim, "Okay, that's it. I'm buying it." The thought of having to tap or lift to see the watch-face always felt a bit too much for a wearable that starts at around $400.

For a moment, the Apple Watch finally sounded like it had matured, leaving behind those early years of any new gadget where you watch a company publicly go through  technical growing pains to get everything right. The Apple Watch is going to now show you the time, all the time? Like a normal watch? That made it feel like this smartwatch finally was ready

What's missing from the Apple Watch Series 5

Then, before I knew it, Apple moved onto the iPhone 11 without nary a mention of sleep tracking, the big Apple Watch feature that I'd been waiting for, and one that hit the headlines in rumor news leading up to the launch event. 

Yes, folks, working at a tech news website can be lots of fun. Unfortunately, keeping your ear constantly open to the rumor mill means you might find yourself with expectations that don't always match reality. 

Why is sleep tracking so critical to the Apple Watch? For starters, I place myself within that wide swath of folks who don't think they're getting enough rest (or at least as many quality zzz's) as they need. And while you need to commit yourself to good sleep just like you need that inner drive to work out, digital sleep tracking can reveal things that you wouldn't normally see, since you're asleep.

There are third-party sleep tracking apps out there, I've paid enough attention to the field to know that Apple can still redefine the category of apps. Most of the current options seem to require a premium subscription (I'm already buying the Watch, I'd like to avoid another monthly fee) and none really have a great interface to see your activity. 

Right when I was eager and ready to smash a buy button for the Apple Watch Series 5, the lack of sleep tracking — and my own expectations — gave me a rude awakening. If I'm going to be giving Apple $400 for a device I don't already own, I don't want Apple to give me buyer's remorse in a year with all of the features wanted.  My first Apple Watch is going to last me a few years, not a mere 12 months.


Of course, that doesn’t mean sleep tracking’s never coming to the Apple Watch, not even this generation. Rumors about the sleep tracking feature did note that the feature could come as early as this year, which can be interpreted as the rumor wasn't as confident as I wanted it to be. 

The Apple Watch Series 5 offers 18 hours of battery life, so I might be waiting for Apple to change its innards to eek more time out of it. Who knows how much time that will be, but they're gonna need to do something so it can also actively track your body during your (hopefully) 8 hours of sleep. The only other possibility I can imagine is a new fast-charging method so you can refuel it while you're bathing.

So just like iPhone customers who want 5G or reverse wireless charging and are waiting for the iPhone 12 to see if Apple finally adds those functions to its phones, I'm pushing my Apple Watch purchase schedule to 2020. 

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.